A Study on the Sociological Imagination

A commonality all societies face, no matter the location or language, is the fact that the societies face a variety of situations that may feel like they’re affecting us as individuals when in fact it could be a population crisis. In more advanced terms, this phenomenon is described as the vivid awareness of the relationships between an individual’s experience and the greater population. This definition has been coined as the “Sociological Imagination” and was defined as such by sociologist C. Wright Mills. A common example of the sociological imagination can be seen in divorce. Although it may feel like two individuals have lost feelings for one another, and this in itself can be studied on a micro scale, a sociologist will take into consideration multiple aspects. For example, questions such as, “Has there been an increase in divorce lawyers?” or “Have divorce rates gone up?” will affect the way a sociologist will think of the difference in outcomes. This study or involvement is referred to as macro-sociology. Sociologists will study all aspects of this demographic in order to see correlations between an individual and its population.

As the sociological belief allows people to see the difference between “personal troubles” and “public issues”, it’s important to realize it’s significance and how it helps the individual within a population. This sociological belief can help an individual understand their place in society by allowing people to relate the situations they face on a micro level to the societal issues that may affect them indirectly, on a macro level. If we did not have the sociological imagination as a type of unspoken pillar in our societies, we will continue to try and fix individual problems without regards to whether or not it needs to be fixed within the entire society. These ideas also correlate with how the outcome of how the sociological imagination is needed to help the continuation of our societies evolvement and to further studies conducted by sociologists’ as they try to find answers within our “fuzzy world”.

C. Wright Mills indicates the differences between “personal troubles” and “public issues” are that personal troubles are viewed as micro-sociology, the study of how a consequence may individually affect a person within a population. In the prior example of divorce, the “personal troubles” equate to potential fighting and the loss of feelings within the involved individuals— which is an unfortunate result of what they did or did not do. This is different from the “public issues” which are seen as macro-sociology; the study of how a consequence may affect the entire population. Within the same example of divorce, the “public issues” can be identified by sociologists as the question potential contributing factors; such as “Has there been an increase in divorce lawyers?” or “Have divorce rates gone up?” Sociologists try to identify the third-party factors and determine the outcomes that this may impress on the entire population. This is significant to know because this belief is still used today in sociology and sociologists’ study this for a variety of different scenarios and outcomes as an attempt to understand the complex societies, we live in.

Within this particular chapter, C. Wright Mills’ idea of the sociological imagination is described and explained through definitions and examples to the audience. Although not the author but rather the father of the terminology, Mills’ idea is elaborate and can be incomprehensible to understand. For these reasons, as well as behalf on the author herself, Lisa J. McIntyre, I personally had both negatives and positives on understanding the overall meaning and examples given of the sociological imagination.

The one thing I did not like about this chapter had to do with the way it was written. As an incoming college student, it’s a known factor that my vocabulary is not as extensive as others and has not been entirely developed. My vocabulary is just not advanced enough to understand what was being written and explained in the chapter. For these reasons, whilst reading the chapter I spent a lot of time googling the terminology and their individual definitions. On the contrary, however, what was originally seen as a negative consequence has allowed me to gain new knowledge of words and expand my vocabulary on what could help me later in my future. As Mills’ would say, my lacking vocabulary is “personal trouble”. As a good sociologist, however, he would also then take into consideration that possibly high schools are not preparing or developing our vocabulary skills enough which he would then look into as a potential “public issue”.

A positive that I do have for the chapter though, are solely based on the examples given to help picture Mills’ idea. Mills’ example of unemployment to describe the differences of “personal troubles” and “public issues” was a relatable topic, because of this I was able to picture it and further understand his thought process and the reason of why sociologists investigate our world the way they do. Since I was then able to understand and broaden my knowledge on this topic, I was able to apply it personally within my own society and see it’s possible consequences and identify other similar phenomena.